One of the more inequitable and depressing things that’s been happening during the Corbett administration is that we’ve been giving $250 million a year in subsidies to rich horse owners while gutting our schools.
The Race Horse Development Fund (RHDF) takes $250 million of casino slot revenues and allocates it toward “enhancing” prize money at horse race tracks because ??!?1??
When Tom Corbett last proposed to decrease the subsidy we’re lavishing on rich horse owners by a couple million, special horse interests shrieked that this was like “rape,” because obviously.
Horrible Democrat Lisa Boscola agreed that horse pork has a stronger claim than school children on this $250 million.
The good news is that this pot of money is increasingly seen as in play, because who honestly has that many race horse owners in their district? Republican Rep. Todd Stephens has introduced a bill that would take the $250 million and spend it on education instead.
Sounds good, right?
But then! it turns out that Rep. Stephens only wants to spend the money on certain school districts. Rich districts!
Rep. Todd Stephens (R-North Wales) today proposed gutting the state’s Race Horse Development Fund in favor of increasing state funding to school districts that receive less than 35 percent of their funding from the Commonwealth.
Who receives less than 35% of their funding from the Commonwealth?
For instance, in two of the more affluent districts, Montgomery County’s Lower Merion and Springfield, state funding per student amounts to roughly 10 percent, according to 2011-2012 state figures.
In districts with less affluent households and smaller tax bases, state spending is much higher per student. The highest percent of state spending per student is in the Chester-Upland district, where roughly 78 percent comes from state coffers. In Philadelphia, it is nearly 49 percent.
Every district in Montgomery County and 12 of the 13 districts in Bucks County would receive funding through Stephens’ proposed Local Effort Equalization Fund (LEEF).
Eleven of Chester County’s 12 districts and 12 of Delaware County’s 15 district would receive funding through LEEF.
The only local districts that would not receive LEEF funding are the Chester-Upland, Southeast Delco, William Penn, Oxford Area, Bristol Borough and Philadelphia districts.
So once again, the story of education funding the past 3 years is that the Republicans scrapped the fair education funding formula we had that liberals won in the last few years of the Rendell administration, and that socked poorer districts with much larger cuts than they would have incurred had the Republicans distributed the cuts based on the fair formula.
So who is really hurting here? Is it rich kids in Lower Merion and Springfield? Well no, their students are enjoying the highest per-student spending in the Commonwealth:
Moshannon School District, Clearfield County — $31,544
Springfield Township School District, Montgomery County — $29,173
Greater Johnstown School District, Cambria County — $27,412
Lower Merion School District, Montgomery County — $27,041
Austin Area School District, Potter County — $24,513
By contrast, kids in Philadelphia get about $11,000 per student. Less than half!
Not only do these districts not need any more help from state government, it defies moral logic that they receive any state funding at all.
Rep. Stephens is right to look to the $250 million Race Horse Development Fund as a revenue stream for education, but not to give an unnecessary stealth tax cut to the Commonwealth’s richest households. We should put it all into Basic Education Funding and distribute it to all 500 districts using a fair, accurate, and transparent funding formula.